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USA Age-Grade Women Winless in Canada

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USA Age-Grade Women Winless in Canada

USA U23s and University of Ottawa Gee-Gees pose together after Tuesday's games.

The USA Women's age-grade teams return from Canada 0-4 and perhaps a little bit humbled, but certainly the teams showed improvement over their series with two of the Great White North's best women's collegiate programs.

The Americans perhaps caught a break in that Queen's University did not have Canada all-everything star Sophie de Goede in the lineup—she just completed her final year with the Gaels. But Queen's and hosts the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees were tough enough regardless.

In the opening match on Sunday the U20s were put to the sword by Queen's. The American U20s looked a little hesitant and certainly were just getting to know each other. They were beaten in the scrum, at the point of contact, and in the kicking game. The scrums especially proved a fruitful platform for the Gaels, as they scored several tries right off the scrum, and went into the break up 43-0. Five more tries made it 76-0 at full time. The U20s hardly saw the ball.

Also on Sunday the USA U23s played Ottawa and battled hard in this game. Outside center Bianca Curtis had several promising breaks, and the Americans had several really good scoring chances against University of Ottawa, but they generally couldn't convert. They did score in the first half thanks to some good work from lock Abbey Jacobs and hooker Hope Cooper before Curtis sped in. But, and this would be a bit of a theme, Ottawa came right back to score after that to make it 21-5 at the break.

In the second half a nifty dummy and run off a maul set up front-rower Roxelle Thomas for a try to make it 21-12. But the Gee-Gees came right back again to cap off pressure and make it 28-12. Soon it was 35-12.

But the key thing about these trips is improvement, and the USA U23s showed that improvement in the final portion of the game. They were more accurate in their skill execution and quicker to the ball. As a result, Aubrey Buresh scored a try and then a nifty play down the weak side saw then over for a second. 35-24 was the final score,and some positives to build on for next time.

The second day of action saw the U23s take on Queen's. And the USA team had the lion's share of territory and possession. The Gaels were happy to defend and punish mistakes, and that was essentially the story of the game. The Americans struggled to win their lineout consistently—not-straight throws were an issue. And once again Queen's was pretty deadly off the scrum.

When the Gaels did break through, whether on a turnover or just running off first phase, the U23s were too slow to get back to help, and Queen's led 12-0 at halftime and 26-0 midway through the second half. At the end of the game, West Chester University's Autumn Czaplicki raced around the edge to score a well-taken try. But too many prime attacking opportunities were missed by this team.

For Queen's, a rather unsportswomanlike attitude from their No. 8 and goalkicker Lizzie Gibson aside, they were very, very good.

The U20s rightfully had an expectation to do better against Ottawa than they did against Queen's, and overall that was true. Ottawa had to work for their opening tries and battled to a 22-0 lead on four tries and one conversion.

They added a penalty to make it 25-0. Then in the second half a good scrum shove and hands out to Quinnipiac's Kat Storey (from Downingtown as a high-schooler) did well to finish off the try. But silly penalties handed the Gee-Gees a try right afterward and against at the death to finish off an Ottawa win 39-5. No. 8 Kestia Kamba scored three tries.

So only one game especially close and four losses, but against a Queen's team that were national champions and an Ottawa team that were runners-up, you'd expect them to struggle. The unity and quality of these opponents was clear. But at the same time, the USA players learned a lot about the level of intensity, accuracy, and work rate needed to live up to the Eagle on that jersey, and they realized they still have a lot of work to do.